Duke’s Third Try Was The Charm

Few colleges suffered worse bowl game luck than the Duke Blue Devils in their first two tries at New Year’s glory.

In the 1939 Rose Bowl, a magnificent “Iron Dukes” squad went through the entire regular season and the first 59 minutes of the Rose Bowl without giving up a single point, only to have its season ruined by a last-minute touchdown drive led by a fourth string Southern Cal quarterback. The 599 minutes of perfection were negated by one minute of heartbreak.

If that wasn’t bad enough, due to West Coast security concerns following Pearl Harbor, the 1942 Rose Bowl game was moved all the way across the country to the Blue Devils’ own stadium. But even this unprecedented home field advantage wasn’t enough to stop Oregon State from carrying the roses back to Corvallis, as the Beavers slopped through a torrential rainstorm for two third quarter touchdowns in two minutes to upset a heavily favored home team.

So when Duke got its third try at the postseason, this time against Alabama in the 1945 Sugar Bowl, they were determined to make the most of it. And with Uncle Sam listening in over the Armed Forces radio while casually holding Hitler and Tojo at bay, the Devils parlayed a questionable fourth quarter intentional safety by the Crimson Tide into a game winning touchdown drive, and went home to Durham with a thrilling 29-26 win in a game where the lead had changed hands five times.

Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.

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